My Search For Meaning

 

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When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves – Viktor Frankl.

20 years ago, I was introduced to logotherapy and Viktor Frankl through the book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  This book was given to me by my doctor, to assist me through a particularly rough time in my life. It helped me to come to terms with some stuff that I was living with, why I was living with it, and it allowed me to find a way out, and start saying yes to life.  Today, I got to visit his museum.  His book changed my life – and today, I got a big reminder of why exactly it did.

20 years ago, I thought I was losing my mind in a big way. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t remember my own name.  When I improved enough, I slowly read (that was the only book I read that year, and it took me the entire year) Dr. Frankl’s book. I learned how he survived the holocaust, and lived a life full of meaning, and without hate. I am still learning how to live without hate – but I do live a life full of meaning.  It took me until today, to realize that I actually do have a very meaningful life.

According to Viktor Frankl, a meaningful life happens when you are a creating, experiencing, suffering person. Suffering doesn’t necessarily happen, when the first 2 are absent.  The museum shows you how to understand and apply logotherapy in a fairly easy fashion. I won’t explain it here- but its worth reading about. I have found that its a great way to explore empathy.

Today was a profoundly positive experience – one that contained some emotional moments (that I don’t quite want to get into tonight, better to just process them for awhile). But there are 2 things that I want to  mention.  The first being that when referencing anxiety, Frankl suggest that you take your anxiety out for a walk – like you are walking the dog.  This conjures up great imagery for me – and will be doing exactly that, from now on.

The next are the 10 Theses on the Human Person – these are as follows:

  1. Every person is an individual.
  2. Every person is un-summable, cannot be constructed by adding individual characteristics (the person is more than the sum of separate individual parts).
  3. Every person is a new creation.
  4. Every person is a spiritual being.
  5. Every person is real (exists in reality, is existential).
  6. Every person is self directed
  7. Every person is a united whole (of body, mind, and spirit).
  8. Every person is not a closed system, is dynamic and open to others.
  9. Every person can self-transcend the situation.
  10. Human beings understand themselves to the extent that they transcend (reach beyond themselves).

Sometimes we forget these things, especially if others are not like us.  I really enjoy #3 – Every person is a new creation. Saying it this way, gives us permission to make mistakes, to learn – to experience something differently.  It gives us an opportunity to not judge. To view in kindness.

All we can do is our best – The Viktor Frankl Museum reminded me that I often do my best – but I can still do better. But more than that, this museum helped me to realize how strong I am, and that I do have a meaningful life.

 

 

 

 

The Killing Season

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the source of anxiety

Its 3AM and I have just woken from a recurring nightmare. I’m covered in cold sweat, I desperately need a shower, but I can’t move from my bed. It is hard for me to move around when its so dark outside. In fact, I have started going to sleep before the sun sets, because it feels safer. But I’m kidding myself. I don’t sleep, not really. Sleeping an hour or less at a time isn’t really sleep. It definitely isn’t restorative. I go to “sleep” so early, to stop myself from thinking about my past.

It’s May, and this is when my PTSD symptoms are the strongest. Historically its been like that. The more I try to cope with them, the worse it gets. Its at a point now, where I am unable to answer the phone (something that I need to do for work). I have to force myself to go outside, but unless I am wearing the darkest sunglasses -that filters out all colours, I can last about 5 minutes. Its just too green here. And green is harmful.

I don’t know why this time of year is so hard. While I remember just about every detail of my rape (I was a kid)- I don’t have any idea of when it happened. It could have happened in May – it was a warm day after all.  No one was wearing a jacket, and the sun was out. But this is the time of year where its hardest to breathe, hardest to stay calm, hardest to sleep, and hardest to function like a normal person.

But I am approaching an anniversary of something else. Something that I never talk about. There are only two other people who even know it happened besides myself. One, my doctor who explained to me what happened, and a friend who I am no longer in contact with – who tried to help me figure out why it happened,

Several years ago, I was raped by my boyfriend.  Note  – this is my very first time calling this rape.  We had been dating for about six weeks, and during an intimate moment  he decided that he had waited long enough. I didn’t stop him. I was unable to speak. I was paralyzed with fear. Frozen. It was not my first time. But I was not ready. We hadn’t established a ring of trust where I was comfortable enough to be with him. After it was over, the sheets of my bed were covered in blood. He freaked out, and I spent the next 3 hours crying in the bathroom, He later told me that it wasn’t his fault. That the way men are wired, once they are aroused they can not stop. It is inevitable. This was my fault.

I knew about date rape, but I didn’t consider what had happened to be that. I hadn’t been drugged – and that is pretty much how I thought date rape occurred. I certainly didn’t think that boyfriends did this to their girlfriends. Which is why I didn’t consider it to be abuse of any kind. A girlfriend took me to see a doctor, when I told her about what happened. How empty and devoid of meaning it was. How it hurt. How there was so much blood. I was adamant that this was my fault. At that moment I didn’t think he had done anything wrong. He had patiently waited for six weeks.  I owed him this.  These were my thoughts. Other than him telling me that men can’t stop once they start – is the only thought of his that I know about – regarding this situation. I have no idea if he has ever thought twice about this. He broke up with me two days later.  It would have been earlier, I am sure -but I couldn’t pick up the phone.

It took a visit to a doctor, a visit that I never want to have to repeat because it was so humiliating, to learn about consent. That while consent is mostly verbal it can also be physical. I learned that what my boyfriend said to me was not actually true. That just because you are in an intimate moment – if you are scared (and by scared he meant paralyzed by fear)  partners pick up on this. A loving partner will not want to hurt you. That they will take that moment to discover what is wrong. its an opportunity for conversation. To make you comfortable, because that will be important to him.

I run into that “boyfriend” now and again.  He was a new girlfriend or wife. He always introduces me as “Tiffany”. I have no idea why. That isn’t even remotely close to my name. But it hurts me just a little bit more when he does it. That I wasn’t worth just a little bit of effort to properly remember my name. I am more angry at myself than I am at him, now. I wont confront him about it. I just need to make peace with it.

I don’t talk about that time of my life, because I don’t like to remember how naive and stupid I was/am. This story gets worse before it gets better, I am sad to say. But eventually I find some strength.  I moved on from that time.  But occasionally it comes up (like it did tonight), and I struggle to make sense of it.  As for the childhood stuff – I will never make sense of it. That doesn’t feel real, even though it is the most real thing that has ever happened to me.

Most of the time, I can recognize the strength it took to survive this – and the other stuff (and there is other stuff- stuff just as dark that went on for a long time), but right now these thoughts feel like they are killing me. They are attacking me from all sides, when Im not looking.  They are in my dreams, I feel them around me always.

I want to walk in the sunlight.  In order to do that, I need to crawl out from under the covers, and show my face to the world. Here I am. Please be kind.

** Photo Source- Filipe Fortes via Flickr